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Meeting the Deadline—The Biggest Trade Deadline Deals
2005-07-24 21:49
by Mike Carminati

With the trade deadline swiftly approaching and not much more than the near futures of Phil Nevin and A.J. Burnett to discuss, I thought it might be interesting to look at the history of the trade deadline via the deals that it engendered.

The one very tricky thing about the history of the trade deadline is that it's changed over the years. I don't mean to say that it evolved over the years to where it is today, though there was a bit of that in the first fifty years of major-league ball. What I mean is that for a good sixty years the trade deadline was set at June 15, a month and a half earlier than it is today. The first major-league-wide trade deadline was established in 1921. It was August 1. The next year, the deadline was pushed back to June 15 where it stood until 1986, when it was set to today's July 31.

Other variations to the rule served to buttress the established trade deadline date. In 1934 interleague trades required passing intraleague waivers. In 1953, that was extended to require major-league waivers on all post-deadline trades. There were many other variations on the rules that are detailed here, but don't directly impact the investigation I propose (put for us Enron-inducing—according to Lil Joe—statheads, it's plenty good readin').

The tricky part becomes that what a team would do June 15 and what they would do on July 31 when they know that the next day their options will get mighty limited are completely different things. On June 15, teams that may not be in any sense contenders by season's end may look like they have a legitimate shot, even if they have a losing record. By using July 31 as a trade deadline the teams involved usually have a pretty good idea what their prospects are for the given season. The later date lets the teams involved make a more informed decision. The question remains as to whether they do a better job though.

Anyway, I looked at all trades within the two weeks leading up to and including the trade deadline starting with the first major-league deadline in 1921. What grabs the headlines in these sorts of trades is having a big-name player or two involved. A team may get big press and by lauded by the media and fans alike by picking up a big name even though it might mean they are giving up a prospect or two that will eventually have better careers than the big name they just received. Given that big names rule these trades at least from a myopic point of view, I first want to look at trades based on the value of the players involved. For this I'll use Win Shares, but any common household appliance will do (Walter "Gib" Gibson would use a pen). Actually, I'll use Win Shares Above Baseline, which filters out lifetime scrubs.

#1) June 3, 1952: Boston Red Sox trade Johnny Pesky, Walt Dropo, Fred Hatfield, Don Lenhardt, and Bill Wight to Detroit for Dizzy Trout, George Kell, Johnny Lipon, and Hoot Evers

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 821
Above Baseline: 428
Career Win Shares following trade: 286
Above Baseline: 40
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 20
Above Baseline: 4
Win Shares following trade for that season: 61
Above Baseline: 10

Oh, the bygone era in which one could be referred to as "Hoot". This one illustrates the problem with the June 15th date very well. Neither team was anywhere near the top when the season was over. Boston was in sixth place with a 76-78, 19 games out of first. Detroit was last (50-104, 45 games out if first and 14 out of seventh!).

However, On June 2, the day before the trade was made, Retrosheet tells me, the Red Sox were percentage points ahead of Cleveland for the American League lead (24-17 to 25-18). Eventual winner, New York, was in fourth with a 19-17 record, 2-1/2 games out, percentage points out of the second division (remember that term?). Even seventh place St. Louis was just 6-1/2 games out, and the floundering Tigers were just 10.5 out. That's the problem with the old trade deadline date: No one was out of it. Everybody could dream that a Billy Beane-esque roster remake could put them in the lead to stay.

Boston must have thought that. Pesky was batting .149 with a .192 slugging percentage in his 25 games with Boston. He had an OPS that was 65% worse than the park-adjusted average with the Sox. He was also playing third after flip-flopping between third base and short over his Red Sox career. He played short in Detroit in 1952 and then switched to second.

After a big rookie year in Boston (AL RoY in 1950), Dropo, the "Moose, from Moosup", had a disappointing follow-up in 1951 (including being brief demotion to San Diego of the PCL) and in 27 Boston games was performing well (.265/.331/.470 and an adjusted OPS 14% better than average) but nowhere near his 1950 performance. He hit 23 homers for Detroit in the 115 games after the trade and had an adjusted OPS 20% better than the league average, but would be a journeyman from that point forward.

Hatfield was essentially Pesky's backup at third at the time of the trade. He followed up a miserable rookie year (.172/.274/.258 in 163 at-bats) with a monstrous aberration through 19 games in 1952 (.320/.433/.560 and an adjusted OPS 66% better than average). The Red Sox were unimpressed, shipping him to Detroit where he was their starting third baseman. He never hit well enough to justify more than a part-time job at any position (he switched between third and second for the rest of his career).

"Footise" Lenhardt was essentially the Sox starting left fielder (while Ted Williams served in the military) and was having a great year (.295/.383/.533 and an adjusted OPS 45% better than average) at the time of the trade. After a brief and unsuccessful stop in Detroit he was shipped to the Browns in another nine-player deal on August 14. He was out of the game within two years due to injury.

Wight was a pitcher from the tail-end of the Red Sox staff, though he was about average (ERA-wise) for his career. He was two years removed from some pretty good years with some second-division White Sox clubs.

Trout was a shell of his former self for the Sox though a better than average pitcher (9-8 with an adjusted ERA 8% better than league average). He would retire after the season (though he did pitch a third of an inning for Baltimore as a gimmick five years later).

Kell was a future Hall-of-Famer who was 29 at the time of the trade and who was mercurial offensively after turning 30. He took over at third for Pesky/Hatfield at third and had an adjusted OPS that was 26% better than average the rest of the way.

Evers replaced Lenhardt in left, and was nowhere near as effective as he had been in Detroit from 1947-50. A broken finger wrecked his swing and his offensive career.

"Skids" Lippon was a no-hit, slick-field shortstop who lived up that tag in Boston (.205/.301/.248, an adjusted OPS 51% worse than average). He was shipped to the Browns in 1953.

So, OK, that's a nine-player deal involving eight players who were starters or would become starters following the trade. Thow in a future Hall-of-Famer and it's a keeper.

#2) June 11, 1937: The Red Sox trade Wes Ferrell, Mel Almada, and Rick Ferrell to the Senators for Ben Chapman and Bobo Newsom

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 560
Above Baseline: 318
Career Win Shares following trade: 401
Above Baseline: 166
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 19
Above Baseline: 8
Win Shares following trade for that season: 55
Above Baseline: 25

Again, Boston was a fifth-place team with a 80-72 record, 21 games out when the dust settled. Washington was sixth, 73-80, 28.5 games back. On June 10, they were 4.5 and 7.5 games out of first. Does this really qualify as a trade deadline-type of trade, one that improves one or both clubs for a pennant race? It's hard to say.

As for the players involved, the Ferrell brothers were a Hall-of-Fame and near-Hall-of-Fame battery. Rick just came off two consecutive twenty-win season and just had six in eight years. He would 14 and 15 over the next two years, and pitch effectively for the Senators (11-13, with an adjusted ERA 13% better than the league average). But his career was effectively over: it took his 6.28 ERA in 1938 to prove it. Rick on the other hand was a disappointment for Washington in 1937 (.229/.348/.262 and an adjusted OPS 41% worse than the league average), but he would be productive for many years thereafter in DC.

Almada was a Mexican-born leadoff hitter who was very up-and-down. He improved greatly with the change (.236/.328/.355 and OPS+ of 69 to .309/.365/.404, OPS+ 97). He did the same thing the next season, improving greatly after being shipped to the Browns but was essentially out of the game thereafter.

Ben Chapman, though best known as the Phils manager who harassed Jackie Robinson, was a very productive and versatile player for many years and many clubs. He came up with the Yankees playing third and second, but was moved to left field the next season. He had decent power his first three years (with double digits in homers and a slugging percentage much better than league average) but that quickly disappeared as did his baserunning speed (61 stolen bases in 1931). He also moved from left to center to right (after he was traded in 1937) and then back to left. Eventually, he became a scrub pitcher late in his career before being tabbed as the Phils manager in 1945. After the trade, he improved greatly with the new team at a new position, center field (.262/.385/.331, OPS+ of 85 to 307/.391/.463, 111). He was traded to Cleveland after batting .340 in 1938.

Newsom was the Mike Morgan of his day, changing teams 16 times. He won twenty games three straight seasons from 1938-40, though he had already left Boston by then. Those were the only 20-win seasons in his career though he pitched for twenty years. He also lost twenty games three times. In '37, he went from 3-4 with a 5.85 ERA (ERA+ of 76) with Washington to 13-10, 4.46 (107) with Boston.

#3) July 31, 1993: The A's trade Rickey Henderson to the Blue Jays for Steve Karsay and a player to be named later (Toronto sent Jose Herrera August 6, 1993)

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 405
Above Baseline: 258
Career Win Shares following trade: 181
Above Baseline: 66
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 17
Above Baseline: 10
Win Shares following trade for that season: 11
Above Baseline: 5

Now, here's a modern trade deadline deal. The last-place A's send Rickey, in the year of a contract to the then Toronto juggernaut. Henderson flopped in Canada (.215/.356/.319 with an OPS+ of 82) after a great first half in Oakland (.327/.469/.553, 181), but he did steal 22 bases in 44 games and scored on the horrific (if you're a Phils fan) Joe Carter homer in the Series. Rickey also paid Turner Ward $25 K for his #24 after he was sent to Toronto feeling #14 was unlucky. Henderson re-signed with the A's for 1994, his third of four stints with Oakland.

Karsay was a failure in parts of three seasons spread over five years as a starting pitcher including two seasons lost to Tommy John surgery, but blossomed, after leaving the A's, as a reliever. Herrera gad a short stint with the A's in 1995-96, but was one of seven different A's to homer in a game in 1996 tying a major-league record.

#4) July 21, 1996: Indians trade Eddie Murray to the Orioles for Kent Mercker

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 477
Above Baseline: 252
Career Win Shares following trade: 37
Above Baseline: 5
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 4
Above Baseline: 0
Win Shares following trade for that season: 3
Above Baseline: 0

This was an odd one. Eddie Murray returned to Baltimore to hit his 500th home run. The O's surge after the trade and take the wild card. And who do they face in the first round. If you saw the film Major League, you know it's the Indians. After batting just .105 in the Series for the Indians in 1995, Murray hits .400 with a .987 OPS against them on the 1996 ALDS.

Mercker was a free agent after 1996 and had been a bust in his only half-season in Baltimore. He was moved to the pen in Cleveland and pitched well but was only used in ten games.

#5) June 14, 1956: The Giants traded Don Liddle, Alvin Dark, Ray Katt, and Whitey Lockman to the Cardinals for Dick Littlefield, Jackie Brandt, Red Schoendienst, Bill Sarni, and a player to be named later (Gordon Jones, October 1)

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 604
Above Baseline: 249
Career Win Shares following trade: 271
Above Baseline: 75
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 23
Above Baseline: 4
Win Shares following trade for that season: 49
Above Baseline: 9

At the time of the trade St. Louis was a half-game out of first though they ended up 76-78 in fourth place. Here's a deal that didn't really work out.

They received a package of three weak-hitting regulars (ss Dark, LF Lockman, and C Katt) plus a washed-up pitcher (Liddle). Schoendienst was coming of a poor season but would rebound. Littlefield's claim to fame was that he was traded for Jackie Robinson later that year. Sarni was a relatively young catcher whose career ended in spring training of the following year when he suffered a heart attack. Brandt was a left fielding prospect who got to start in New York and who had some pretty good years. Jones was a young journeyman-to-be.

#6) July 31, 1987: The Indians trade Steve Carlton to the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named later (Jeff Perry, August 18, 1987)

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 365
Above Baseline: 242
Career Win Shares following trade: 1
Above Baseline: 0
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 2
Above Baseline: 0
Win Shares following trade for that season: 1
Above Baseline: 0

42-year-old, future Hall-of-Famer Steve Carlton was sent to the Twins, a team leading the AL West by 2-1/2 games at the time, for a guy who never made it to the majors. Carlton was for a time inserted in the rotation but was 1-5 with a 6.70 ERA of the Twins.

#7) June 13, 1930: The Browns trade Heinie Manush and Alvin Crowder to the Senators for Goose Goslin

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 409
Above Baseline: 229
Career Win Shares following trade: 387
Above Baseline: 212
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 23
Above Baseline: 15
Win Shares following trade for that season: 47
Above Baseline: 29

The Senators were a half-game out of first at the time of the trade. They finished eight games behind the A's in second.

They exchanged one future Hall-of-Fame left fielder in his prime for another. General Crowder won 15, 18, 26, and 24 in three and one-half years in DC. Gooslin and Manush manned the Senators outfielder (with Goose shifting to right) in 1933, a rare year in which Washington nabbed an AL pennant.

#8) (Tied) June 4, 1953: The Pirates trade Ralph Kiner, Joe Garagiola, Catfish Metkovich, and Howie Pollet to the Cubs for Toby Atwell, Bob Schultz, Preston Ward, George Freese, Bob Addis, Gene Hermanski, and $150 K

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 562
Above Baseline: 220
Career Win Shares following trade: 145
Above Baseline: 26
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 12
Above Baseline: 3
Win Shares following trade for that season: 37
Above Baseline: 11

This was the famed "we finished last with you, we can finish last without you" trade as the Pirates jettisoned Kiner, and indeed they finished last but the Cubs were just one spot ahead of them.

Kiner was in a decline and had just two seasons left (though he was just 30), but he was still an effective player. Atwell was oddly an All-Star as a rookie catcher in 1952. The rest were scrubs and has-beens that reminds one of shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

#8) (Tied) June 13, 1953: The Browns traded Virgil Trucks and Bob Elliott to the White Sox for Darrell Johnson, Lou Kretlow, and $75K.

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 427
Above Baseline: 220
Career Win Shares following trade: 90
Above Baseline: 39
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 16
Above Baseline: 8
Win Shares following trade for that season: 23
Above Baseline: 12

The Sox were 13 games behind the league-leading Yankess at the time of the trade with a 28-26 record. They ended up 11.5 games back in third (89-65). So again this might not be the typical trade deadline deal, but it was a good one for the Sox.

Trucks ended up winning 20 games for the year going 15-6 with a 2.86 ERA, 41% better than the park-adjusted league average. He also won eight straight at one point. It was his only twenty-win season and was arguably his best. In 1954 he nearly pitched his third career no-hitter and ended up 19-12 with a 2.79 ERA (ERA+ of 134). He quickly faded thereafter (13-8 with a league average ERA of 3.96 in his third and final year in Chitown).

The thirty-six-year-old Elliott, who registered his 2000th hit two weeks earlier, had just 67 games left in his tank going .260/.358/.380 with an adjusted OPS 3% worse than average. But he still was Mr. Team, the antimatter to Mr. Met.

Johnson was in the minors before the trade and stayed there until he surfaced with the Yankees in 1957. He was never more than a backup catcher in six seasons. He is best remembered as manager: he piloted the Red Sox to the classic 1975 Series and was the Mariners inaugural manager in 1977.

Kretlow was a former "bonus baby" who never won more than six games in a season. He survived with the Browns after they moved to Baltimore. His career record was 7-20 in parts of three seasons for the Browns/Orioles franchise.

#10) June 15, 1926: The Red Sox traded Howard Ehmke and Tom Jenkins to the A's for Fred Heimach, Slim Harriss, and Baby Doll Jacobson

Career Win Shares prior to trade: 412
Above Baseline: 215
Career Win Shares following trade: 109
Above Baseline: 37
Win Shares prior to trade for that season: 15
Above Baseline: 6
Win Shares following trade for that season: 27
Above Baseline: 9

This was the follow-up to the A's trade earlier in the day, sending Bing Miller to the Browns for Jacobson. The A's were in third, ten games behind the Yankees at the time of the trade despite a 32-27 record. The Sox were in the basement as was their wont in those days.

Ehmke was 3-10 with a 5.46 ERA (26% worse than the league average) following up a 9-20, 3.73 in Boston. That followed up a 20- and a 19-win season. Ehmke turned his season around after the trade going 12-4 with a 2.81 ERA (149 ERA+). He hung on with the A's for a few fading years. He was the surprise choice by Connie Mack to pitcher the 1929 World Series opener, pitching brilliantly striking out 13 Cubs and allowing just one run (in the ninth), eight hits, and one walk in a complete game victory.

Jenkins was a backup corner outfielder who lasted just six games in Philly. Lefty Heimach's claim to fame was that he didn't make an error from this season until the end of his career in 1933 (141 chances). Harriss came off a 19-win aberration in 1925 going 9-15 with a 4.34 ERA in 1926 (6-10, 4.46 with Boston). He followed it up with a 21-loss season in 1927. His biggest claim to fame was being the loser in the game in which Walter Johnson's collected his 400th victory, a month before the trade (May 2, 1926). Jacobson never played for the A's being part of two trades that day. He did well for the Sox (.305/.344/.447, 108 OPS+) but was in steep decline after two great seasons in St. Louis and would play just one more season.

Honorable Mention:

#11) June 12, 1940: The Dodgers trade Bert Haas, Carl Doyle, Ernie Koy, Sam Nahem, and $125K to the Cardinals for Joe Medwick and Curt Davis.

#12) June 15, 1977: The Mets trade Tom Seaver to the Reds for Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, and Dan Norman.

#13) June 13, 1975: The Rangers trade Jim Bibby, Jackie Brown, Rick Waits, and $100K to the Indians for Gaylord Perry.

#14) June 15, 1957: The Braves trade Ray Crone, Danny O'Connell, and Bobby Thomson to the Giants for Red Schoendienst.

#15) July 31, 2000: The Orioles trade Will Clark and undisclosed amount of cash to the Cardinals for Jose Leon.

#16) June 14, 1939: The Indians trade Earl Averill to the Tigers for Harry Eisenstat and undisclosed amount of cash.

#17) June 11, 1969: The Dodgers trade Ron Fairly and Paul Popovich to the Expos for Maury Wills and Manny Mota.

#18) June 10, 1961: The White Sox trade Wes Covington, Stan Johnson, Bob Shaw, and Gerry Staley to the A's for Ray Herbert, Don Larsen, Andy Carey, and Al Pilarcik.

#19) June 4, 1975: The Rangers trade Willie Davis to the Cardinals for Ed Brinkman and Tommy Moore.

#20) July 27, 2001: The Devil Rays trade Fred McGriff to the Chicago Cubs for Manuel Aybar and a player to be named later (Jason Smith, August 6, 2001).

#21) July 28, 1995: A's trade Ruben Sierra and Jason Beverlin to the Yankees for Danny Tartabull.

2005-07-25 09:00:38
1.   JMC
Your such a tease!

Kidding. But hurry up with the second part, this topic fascinates me.

2005-07-25 11:51:23
2.   Mike Carminati
JMC, a tease? You love it, baby.

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